This study aims to analyze how leadership influenced corporate responsible behavior in a complex multinational organization with ethical principles imposed by concrete actions on regulatory, environmental and international labor issues. Increasing functional specialization, multinational diversity and business acquisitions challenged the core values and called for more formal enforcement. Core values executed through investment in positive economic externalities enhanced the reputation and facilitated sustainable collaborative solutions.
This single-case study collects evidence from experienced multinational executives for practitioner-based theory building. The information is interpreted against prevailing theory to gain deeper insights for practice. Observed phenomena are discussed in various managerial audiences and cross-checked against documents, news articles, books and involved external stakeholders. The case material and executive narratives are further assessed from storytelling and retrospective sense-making perspectives.
The study illustrates how core values were enforced through concrete executive decisions driving corporate reputation and good stakeholder relationships. It provides evidence of positive outcomes as future conflicts are reduced while levering the reputation to deal more effectively with emergent risks. The core values influenced corporate responsible behavior and supported long-term adaptability, but increasing diversification and global expansion also diluted those values.
Corporate responsible behavior is a significant challenge in large organizations with many and diverse multinational stakeholders. Ethical conduct derives from executive morality, but the role of leaders as instigators of responsible behavior has not been studied in the context of multinational enterprise. Hence, this article fills a need for more granular longitudinal studies of complex internationalizing organizations.
The support from the CBS Office for Responsible Management Education (PRME) is highly appreciated. Christine Bang Andersen provided very competent research assistance. The author thanks Kai Hockert for his engagement at the early stages of the project and Peter Ping Li and an anonymous reviewer for their constructive comments. Participants at the Nordic Symposium for Corporate Social Responsibility, counting R. Edward Freeman, gave useful feedback to an early draft. Stuart Howard (ITF), Dawn McLaren (EIRIS), Klaus Wiinblad (ATP) and Annette Stubbe (APMM) made valuable contributions along the way. However, a very special appreciation goes to Knud Pontoppidan for his encouragement to advance this project.
Andersen, T.J. (2017), "Corporate responsible behavior in multinational enterprise", International Journal of Organizational Analysis, Vol. 25 No. 3, pp. 485-505. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJOA-12-2016-1098
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